It’s been a long rainy afternoon, which means that I felt pretty good about giving up any pretense of productivity and making a butt-shaped dent in the couch while I watched multiple hours of ‘Dr. Who’. I’m a latecomer to the series, so I’m still pretty far behind – I’m wrapping up Season 4 now – but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have oh so many feelings about it. Like, Donna Noble! So awesome! And really, the Daleks are the superkillers of this world? Because they are pretty much just giant bumpy traffic cones whose weapons are a whisk and a plunger. I mean, how about the invisible piranhas that live in the shadows and pick your bones clean when you walk out of the light? Those things are terrifying!
Anyhoo, it was recently announced that Matt Smith, who plays the most recent incarnation of the Doctor (because if you don’t watch the show, it has a BRILLIANT built-in ‘we can run forever’ device, which is that the Doctor can regenerate himself, allowing new actors to take over the role every few years) is leaving the show. That means it’s time to find a new Doctor, and the internet is abuzz. And because I went down a significant Dr. Who rabbit hole this afternoon, I now feel qualified to add my own two cents to a world FULL of cents.
Judging from the previous actors they have hired to play the Doctor, here are some elements that seem to be likely for whoever comes next:
The Doctor can technically take a number of different forms, but so far all eleven incarnations have been dudes. There’s been some support to have the next Doctor be a woman, which, lets be honest, would be awesome and long overdue. However, there are elements of the Dr. Who universe that would make having a female Doctor more complicated than just having a lady running the TARDIS. Beyond just the very present (and lame) excuse of ‘tradition’, the biggest hurdle is that the Doctor (spoiler!) has a female wife. Although the showrunners of the show have said they would welcome a woman Doctor (and the show has been progressive in its portrayal of sexualities, most notably in the bisexual (or pansexual) Captain Jack Harkness), I would imagine that the BBC would still be gun shy about having their most massive shows feature a lesbian relationship at its core. Also, judging from the soul-crushing vitriol in internet comments, lots of fans are, shall we say, resistant. Also, horrible people, because YIKES you guys.
2. A Theater and TV Background
Judging from the new incarnations, casting directors are looking at actors who have legit stage credits (especially in Shakespeare and classics) as well as some roles in television series. Movies don’t seem to be a direct line to the TARDIS.
3. Moderate Fame
All three of the latest Doctors weren’t hugely famous when they were cast. They were more like “oh, THAT guy!” I’d expect that the next Doctor will follow the same route – established enough to be known, but not so famous that viewers will have to shake off previous roles to buy him as the Doctor. Benedict Cumberbatch is too famous. Dominic Cooper and Idris Elba probably are as well. Even Ben Whishaw, whose name has come up quite a bit, might be too famous.
The Doctors are getting younger; Christopher Eccleston is 49, David Tennant is 42, and Matt Smith is only 30. Since traditionally the Doctors have skewed older, I would imagine that they don’t want to continue the trend of Merlin-like backwards aging, and will choose someone a little older than Matt Smith, at least.
5. A Sense of Fun
Yes, he’s a pacifist and a time-traveler and filled with inner pain, but let’s be honest; everyone likes the Doctor more when he’s funny. Christopher Eccleston, the first of the new reincarnations, is an actor who naturally reads more sinister and dangerous, and whenever he smiled his big “I’m having fun!” smile you just thought he was about to snap and murder someone. Which, when the Doctor is supposed to be the guy in the universe you can trust the most, isn’t great.
This is the biggest question. All the Doctors so far have been white, but in a show that values literally the diversity of the universe, this seems peculiar. There’s been a lot of pressure to feature an actor who isn’t Caucasian, and since they probably aren’t going to cast a woman there’s a very good chance this is where they’ll expand the canon.
Duh. Do YOU want to be the nation that has the entire UK coming after you because one of your actors got the role that is so essentially British it might as well be stamped on the top of every McVitie’s? I thought not.
So, will all this in mind, here are my picks for who actually might be coming out of the TARDIS next, in no particular order:
1. Ben Daniels
This name has been bandied about all over the place, because it makes total sense. Except for the whole ‘another white Doctor’ thing, Daniels ticks every box of a likely Doctor: he’s older, has lots of stage and TV credits while still being not immediately recognizable, and is sexy and funny while still being sweet.
2. Adrian Lester
He’s got the stage cred (and, like David Tennant, famously played Hamlet), he’s got the talent, he’s got the looks, and – bonus – he apparently shares the Doctor’s inability to age, because that dude is 44. 44!!! A Time Lord indeed.
He’s basically standing in front of a TARDIS. I mean, come on.
3. Oliver Chris
This probably won’t happen because he’s too similar to Matt Smith, but how great would the tall bedimpled star from ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’ and the British ‘The Office’ be as the Doctor? He’s a goofy/sweet stage actor with comedy chops for days – a great combo. Also, the dimples. Oh, the dimples.
4. Domhnall Gleeson
The same age as Matt Smith (although he reads even younger), Domhnall Gleeson is a great choice if they want to continue the youthful trend. He’s insanely charming and has the stage credits (remember him in ‘The Lieutenant of Inishmore’? He was HILARIOUS) and feels like he’s just the right level of fame to play the Doctor – he’s teetering on the precipice of being the Next Big Thing, so why not confirm it? However, he’s more of a boy than a man, and he’s still white (although he is a redhead, which people sometimes seem to think is some sort of weird other category unto itself – I guarantee you that if he is announced as the next Time Lord there will be headlines extolling the first Ginger Doctor).
5. Irrfan Khan
Come on, if this man beckoned you into his traveling police box to travel the universe, would you go? Of course you would, because Irrfan Khan is the best. He’s a bigger star than anyone else on this list, for sure, but he still hasn’t quite broken into the British and American market in the way he has already in his native India. But it feels like only a matter of time; he is an incredibly talented actor, who effortlessly projects a fundamental decency and heartbreaking vulnerability at the same time. You would instantly believe that his Doctor carries the weight of his destroyed world with him always, and yet you’d trust whatever he says. He’s not technically British, but this would be a really cool nod to the UK’s large Indian population.
6. Stephen Mangan
I was going to stop at five, but then remembered Stephen Mangan, who would be SO perfect. I mean, right?
7. Jennifer Ehle
Screw what I said before about not having a woman Doctor, because JENNIFER FUCKING EHLE. Is there anyone in the world who doesn’t want to watch Jennifer Ehle play any role at all? There cannot be, because Jennifer Ehle is the shit. That is all.